We spill on the many types, benefits and usages of skin and hair oil…
By Adriana Ermter
Oil. You’ve spent a lifetime avoiding it—called it greasy, slimy, even dirty and gross. Your bathroom cupboard is a smorgasbord of its antithesis products, each jar and tube clearly labelled as “water-based,” “mattifying” or “anti-shine.”
And yet, the once unpopular ingredient is now hot in demand.
Nutrient rich and fuelled with powerful healing and anti-aging properties, oils penetrate deeper than other skin and hair care products. They balance your skin, hair and scalp’s natural sebum and moisture levels. They help protect against the environment and they work hard to smooth your fine lines and wrinkles into oblivion. So with winter’s see-saw temperatures upon us, it’s time to rethink oils and add them into your beauty and grooming routine.
“You need products that won’t dry out your hair and complexion during the cold-weather months,” affirms Lev Glazman, co-founder of Fresh Cosmetics. “Moving back and forth from the freezing cold to the warm indoors can wreak havoc on your body,” making oils your best defence against dry, brittle, dull and damaged skin and hair.
Like the snowflakes falling outside, no two oils are exactly the same. Botanical oils like Aveda’s Lavender Fleurs Oil Singular Note ($29, available at Aveda stores) are replete with plant-based components such as jasmine, evening primrose and lavender, and are coveted for their hydrating, healing, calming and aromatherapy benefits.
Products such as Moroccanoil’s Pure Argan Oil ($50, available at moroccanoil.com) use natural oils like those derived from avocado, rice bran, argan and hazelnut—ideal for glowing hair and skin.
Organic oils, like Fresh’s Seaberry Moisturizing Face Oil ($58, available at Sephora stores) and Pretty Cosmetics’ Love Affair Citrus Organic Virgin Coconut ($30, available online at prettycosmetics.ca), contain ingredients such as grapeseed, seaberry, pomegranate and coconut, and deliver antioxidants to help fight wrinkles and dull skin.
And if you’re thinking—stop right there, I’ve got oily skin so this isn’t for me—you can think again. All oils are safe to use on all skin types and conditions, including oily and acne-prone skin. “It’s a common misconception that those with acne-prone or oily skin should avoid oil-based products,” says Glazman. “But in reality, the last thing you should do is strip your skin of its natural oils. It will go into overdrive to reproduce them and you’ll be left with unbalanced, oily skin.”
Drier oils, like The Body Shop’s Tea Tree Oil (from $13, available at The Body Shop stores), predominantly contain jojoba, hazelnut and/or sesame, which have the antibacterial powers to combat and prevent unwanted spots.
Start at the top…
Believe it or not: whether you have a dry and itchy scalp, or an oily and greasy one, the problem can be resolved with a drop or two of the good stuff. “Most people don’t realize that a healthy scalp is key to achieving beautiful, healthy hair,” says Kevin Hughes, artistic director for Moroccanoil in New York City. “Whether your scalp is dry and flaky or overactive and oily, concentrated oil formulas instantly help soothe and address those concerns. As the scalp is restored to perfect balance, the hair is instantly revitalized with more body, life and vitality.”
While it may seem counterintuitive to lubricate what’s already well oiled, so to speak, hair oils help seal and heal your hair’s cuticle shaft, preventing breakage, tangling and dehydration from blow-dryers, flat irons and curling irons. Loaded with fatty acids, oils simultaneously soothe and cleanse your scalp of dirt and grime without stripping it of its natural sebum, while replacing the lipids in your hair, infusing each strand with moisture.
Best practices: Even if you’re using oil-based shampoos and conditioners, you should only be washing your hair once or twice a week. “Daily shampooing can actually stimulate oil production,” explains Hughes. “As you ‘strip’ the scalp of its natural oils, it sends a signal to produce more of it.” Using a scalp treatment, such as Moroccanoil Oily Scalp Treatment ($48, available at moroccanoil.com), can correct oily scalp imbalances and eventually lead to shampooing less often. This less-is-more theory should also be applied to styling products, such as The Innate Life Rose Hair Elixir ($39, available at theinnatelife.co), where one or two drops applied to the tips of hair and massaged upward to the roots will promote healthy, beautiful hair.
…And work your way down
From your face to your toes, your entire body benefits from a daily dose of oil. Not only do these oily formulations hydrate your skin, they double down with extra perks such as deep cleansing, collagen production, increased radiance, anti-aging, and stretch mark and razor burn reduction. And the richer options—like coconut, almond, omega and shea—give severely dehydrated skin and hair an extra boost of moisture.
Face and body cleansing oils such as Fresh Seaberry Skin Nutrition ($48, available at Sephora stores) and A-Derma Emollient (from $14, available at Beauty Boutique by Shoppers Drug Mart) are soap free and contain ingredients such as plant extracts, evening primrose oil, sea buckthorn oil and omega 6 to remove impurities, while maintaining the natural sebum your skin needs. “Oil removes oil, so with an oil cleanser, you remove what’s on the surface—the oil and grime,” explains Glazman. “And you replace it with cleaner, nourishing oils, so it keeps the skin balanced without stripping your skin of its essential nutrients.”
Best practices: For an added boost of antioxidant-rich nourishment and moisture, apply a face and/or all-over body oil like Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour Cream All-Over Miracle Oil ($36, available at Shoppers Drug Mart) to help lock moisture into the skin, increasing elasticity and smoothness while amplifying nourishment and protection from the environment. “Whenever your skin feels like it needs an extra boost, add an oil into your ritual,” affirms Glazman. Adding a drop or two into your bath at night or emulsifying it with your eye, day, night and body creams is also a great way to transition your skin during the change of seasons, “allowing you to take your creams from summer to winter.”
ADRIANA ERMTER is a Toronto-based, lifestyle-magazine pro who has travelled the globe writing about must-spritz fragrances, child poverty, beauty and grooming.